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Philadelphia Cat Plays A Tiny Piano, Becomes Internet Sensation

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Cats are perennially popular on the Internet - playing, leaping, napping. Oh, what those paws can't do.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAT PLAYING PIANO)

SIMON: That is not B.J. Leiderman, who writes our theme music. It's Winslow, a short-haired tabby in Philadelphia. He's 7 years old, and he loves to cat-scratch the ivories.

KATE NYX: He plays a dozen concerts a day.

SIMON: That's his owner - owner? That sounds cold - roommate, Kate Nyx.

NYX: He likes to go up and down the keyboard depending on how little we're paying attention. If we're not paying attention enough, he'll do a lot of really aggressive playing, sometimes with his forehead. He's very emotional, you know? Like, he just uses the piano as a way to communicate his creative spirit. He's like me in that way.

SIMON: Kate Nyx is a musician herself. While getting ready for one of her own performances, she recorded a 26-second clip of Winslow at the piano in her kitchen and tweeted it out.

NYX: He's at almost a million views. I have made so much work on the Internet, and never have I ever reached anywhere close to this level of international acclaim.

SIMON: Winslow's gotten write-ups in the Independent, the New York Post, People magazine, the real-life make-good story for a hard-scrabble tabby from Jersey who came into Nyx's life when a relative saw him scrapping with a dog.

NYX: He was originally from the streets of Camden, but I saw his little face, and I was like, this is the one. I could tell from the second I looked at him that his name would be Winslow. And he's the first cat I've ever had that I could tell liked me back.

SIMON: Relations were a little rocky at first.

NYX: He would get into things and topple things over. And he gave, well, my then-boyfriend and I a terrible case of ringworm because he was all messed up from the streets. And we ended up getting engaged because we were just so dedicated to him and each other that we realized that there was no point in pretending we were going to go through this with anyone else. So we call it our engagement ringworm.

SIMON: How romantic. Kate Nyx and her now-husband introduced Winslow to the piano.

NYX: It was not hard to train him at all 'cause he was interested in how it worked. He would hit the top of it and then look underneath.

SIMON: But he only became a maestro when Kate Nyx made the piano Winslow's signal for food.

NYX: It just made sense to utilize something that he had already been interested in to transition him away from free feeding to getting specific meals at specific times.

SIMON: And for Winslow to signal that he's irritated.

NYX: If it's time for bed and I've been working too late or if my husband and I are in different rooms in the house at a certain time of night, he will play to remind us that things should be a different way.

SIMON: Kate Nyx has gotten messages from other pet owners since posting the video asking how she puts up with Winslow's noise, which she says helps her cope with depression and anxiety.

NYX: It was one of the first times where I was able to realize that I could affect things outside of me positively. When I hear him play piano, it's just proof that I can bring light into the world, that I can bring joy and make beautiful stuff happen.

SIMON: Winslow and Kate Nyx recently teamed up for a song called "Bean Gotta Scream." It's just been released on Spotify and YouTube.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BEAN GOTTA SCREAM")

NYX: (Singing) Bean gotta scream. Meow, meow, meow.

SIMON: We asked Winslow to comment, of course.

NYX: Baby boy, we're getting interviewed for the radio. Do you have anything to say? No comment, all right. He says, no paw-parazzi (ph).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BEAN GOTTA SCREAM")

NYX: (Singing) Bean gotta scream. Meow, meow, meow.

SIMON: Kate Nyx and Winslow in Philadelphia.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BEAN GOTTA SCREAM")

NYX: (Singing) Meow, meow, meow. Bean gotta scream. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.